01 September 2010
I’d been laid off before, but I had never been unemployed before, as I was able to immediately find another job. And, according to my friends and family, I wasn’t unemployed this last time, either, because I freelanced full time while I searched for another regular job. I was one of the few lucky ones. I had freelance clients when I was laid off, and I was able to increase my work with those clients, as well as gain new clients. In fact, freelance led to my current job. It never would have worked if I wasn’t a good saver, with money in the bank, but I managed. Others — most — have not been so lucky.
I have friends who accepted jobs they truly loathe, who have taken a step down in their careers and who have taken pay cuts of 20 to 40 percent. They’re not happy in their current jobs, but with such a tight job market, they have no choice but to stay in them until something better opens up. Of course, the competition for those few jobs is so stiff that they have a one in five chance of landing those jobs.
These are good people who gave everything they had to their jobs. As a result of the letdown of being laid off by a company to which they were loyal and in addition to their current job situations, I’m seeing a lot of people who are no longer loyal to their employers, who are at their jobs because they have families and mortgages and bills. I’m not saying that they are no longer good workers — they are — but their hearts aren’t in their work anymore, and they have placed a renewed focus on their families and their lives outside of work.
These workers are exhausted from working too hard, dealing with the struggles of unemployment and searching for a job — any job — to support their families. While happy to finally have found jobs, they feel used and abused by their new employers, who are offering much lower salaries because they can — because so many people need a job. In short, they’re looking at their jobs much differently today than just a couple of years ago.
This new attitude is in stark contrast to what American companies have become accustomed. The previous generations of workers have been intensely devoted to their jobs and loyal to their employers. They have put work at the top of their lists — many have put work before their families and their personal lives.
Enter the Millennials, also known as Generation Y. Today, multiple generations are fully immersed in the American workforce, and more importantly, they are diverse generations. And the youngest generation — the Millennials — has a whole different attitude toward work than baby boomers and Generation Xers.
Aside from their technological savvy and dependence, their ability to multitask, and their expectation of getting a lot for giving a little, Millennials don’t have the built-in loyalty to employers that previous generations have demonstrated. Most of them fully expect not only to have multiple jobs in their lifetimes but also to have multiple careers in their lifetimes. Pew Research Center studies reveal that Millennials are much more focused on their families and their lives outside of work than their predecessors. And this will have profound effects on the workforce.
So, with the attitude of Millennials and that of unhappy employees trying to recover from the devastation of layoffs and unemployment, it won’t be long before even the employees who have kept their jobs become less dedicated. It’s already afflicting today’s workforce, and I suspect it will become epidemic.
American companies are used to employees who give their jobs 110 percent and who are at their positions for the long haul. But this is changing, and it makes me wonder what the workforce will look like in five or 10 years.